Remember this story from back in February? Nothing I've written in the past four and a half years at ESPN.com has generated such a strong response. While most of the feedback was negative (fine by me), one element of the minority coaches' story seemed to be overlooked.
The Big Ten's main involvement in the issue has been its participation in an annual minority coaches' forum, launched in 2006 and held annually through 2010 by the commissioners of the BCS automatic-qualifying leagues. The event brought together top minority assistant coaches, athletic directors and conference officials to network and discuss the hiring process. The Big Ten had 17 African-American assistant coaches attend the forum between 2006 and '10. Five since have gone on to become FBS head coaches, and four -- Ron English (Eastern Michigan), Darrell Hazell (Kent State), Don Treadwell (Miami University in Ohio) and Garrick McGee (UAB) -- remain in those roles. ...
The forum, held in conjunction with the Fiesta Frolic, didn't take place in 2011 because of the fallout from the Fiesta Bowl scandal. The leagues had a conference call scheduled for Tuesday to discuss a 2012 forum, which could take place in June at the athletic directors' convention.
"It's important for us to continue," Big Ten senior associate commissioner Mark Rudner said. "This really was the one vehicle, at least on the football side, that everybody in our conference coalesced around."
Well, here's the good news: the forum will take place next week, and two Big Ten assistants will be in attendance. According to Mark Rudner, the event is now called the NCAA Champion Forum and will take place Monday-Wednesday at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention in Dallas.
Minority assistant coaches from around the country will attend, including Northwestern wide receivers coach Dennis Springer and Michigan State secondary coach Harlon Barnett. Assistants from schools like Stanford, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Kansas State also will be there.
Participants will go through a mock interview process for a head-coaching position where they'll interact with a search firm and talk with a panel of sitting athletic directors, including Northwestern's Jim Phillips. The assistant coaches also will rub elbows with a university president (Western Kentucky's Gary Ransdell) and receive media training from the NCAA. Rudner and officials from other conferences will attend to talk to the coaches about the role of league offices. Representatives from the NFL also will be on hand, and other Big Ten athletic directors will be in Dallas next week.
"It's a fabulous program," Rudner told ESPN.com "There's search firm engagement. Participants are going to go through an interview process. It's a chance to network, which is always important."
Barnett, who played at Michigan State before going onto the NFL for seven seasons, has coached defensive backs under Mark Dantonio at Michigan State and Cincinnati since 2004. Springer has coached a variety of positions -- wide receiver, running back, linebacker, secondary -- at Northwestern, Indiana, Western Kentucky, Bowling Green and Ball State.
It's great to hear the minority coaches' forum is taking place again. Hopefully, it will produce more capable and qualified coaches to continue the recent trend of hiring coaches of color.